the perfect ten

September 11, 2012

Dear Emma,

You’re ten. TEN. I may seem to be handling it well, but it’s making my brain hurt. Growing kids mark the passage of time like a brick to the face. Growing kids and movie release dates. After watching “Back to the Future” this summer and remembering it was made in 1985, I started researching retirement homes for your dad and I.

I’ve never written you a birthday letter, and I can’t guarantee I’ll ever do it again. I’m not the most organized or consistent of mothers. But I can make you smile when you're mad, do that thing with my nose, and outdo Beaker. It’s not like you lost out completely.

I’ve written a lot about parenting since you arrived on set. Most of it focuses on how overwhelmed I sometimes feel. I don’t always like parenting as much we've been led to believe a person should, but I'm not sorry you’re in my life. I love you. And boy do I like you. You’re my favourite.

When you were little, your dad and I went to a church-planting bootcamp. (True story.) There were about ten other young couples, all of us candidates to start baby churches. On our first night together, we were led through various getting-to-know-you activities. One was sharing two truths and a lie. Our job was to spot the lie.

“Parenting overwhelms me,” was one of my truths. Almost everyone picked it as my lie. I remember feeling disbelief followed by shame. I was certain every other parent in the room would respond to my truth with head nods and chest-pounds in solidarity. All these years later and that memory still gives me scrunchy face.

I spend unhealthy amounts of time keeping pace with high-functioning types. While the average person practices a little positive self-talk here and some shrugging off there, I'm hiding under the talbe because I misread a friend's glance.

There are times it’s impossible to believe I possess anything worth offering beyond a fermenting junkyard swollen with anxiety. You know on airplanes how they ask parents in to put on their masks before their child's in an emergency? It like my plane is in perpetual a nosedive and I’m stuck in a time loop putting on my mask, putting on my mask, putting on my mask.

I wonder how to offer you goodness when you orbit a broken axis.

Best birthday letter everrrrr!

I fight a lot of gross in my head. There’s a troll on duty that doesn’t sleep. I’m looking into having her terminated, but there’s resistance and paperwork and I lost my pen.

But you. Emma.

You make every healthy thought and habit and action worth the fight. You are hope and joy and love rolled into summer-bronzed skin and bouncy blonde hair. You remind me that not everything has to be complicated and that other things always will be.

You show me how to sit with happiness and have delicious slow bites of gooey donuty goodness. You challenge me to focus on being me, worry less about appraisal, and say what I mean. Because these are things I want for you.

You show me how to celebrate people. Since toddling you greeted everyone like a moonstruck groupie with smiles, giggles, and running hugs. Even with encounters separated only by minutes. My Little Goldfish, you are a party. People have always said that about you: Emma is a party! And it’s the truest.

You remind me not to vilify my tender heart. You feel the world as deeply as your mama, and I didn’t see beauty in that until you happened. We ride joy and sorrow full bodied, you and I. We get deep in the trenches of hurt and healing.

My angst with parenting is because I'm desperate to do this right. And because I fear I won’t. When I look at you, there is no denying your wonder. It fills a room. All of the rooms. And every space in my heart. You help me believe I’m doing at least some things right. Maybe enough that you'll be okay.

I love you, Emma Kristy Fisher. You’re the most beautiful part of my world. You lock light into place. You're the perfect ten. Happy Birthday.

Love,

Mama

Originally published on Truthfully.

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